In light of the importance of addressing the digital divide in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Sustainable Development Goals, the President of the General Assembly has decided to convene a one-day High-level Thematic Debate on Digital Cooperation and Connectivity on Tuesday, 27 April 2021, in the General Assembly Hall, United Nations Headquarters.

The thematic debate will be convened in response to calls from Member States to do so, and is held pursuant to General Assembly Resolution 72/313 of 17 September 2018, entitled “Revitalization of the work of the General Assembly”, in which the Assembly ‘recognizes the value of holding interactive inclusive thematic debates on current issues of critical importance to the international community, and calls upon the President of the General Assembly to organize such debates in close consultation with the General Committee and Member States’.

The High-level Thematic Debate will be convened under the theme “Whole-of-Society Approaches to End the Digital Divide” and will highlight the importance and urgency of political commitment at the highest levels to address the digital divide in support of COVID-19 adaptation, response and recovery efforts, in alignment with the SDGs.

The Debate will also mobilize the international community to strengthen related existing multi-stakeholder initiatives and partnerships, and support the creation of additional partnerships to accelerate implementation efforts.

The High-level Thematic Debate on Digital Cooperation and Connectivity will be broadcast live at http://webtv.un.org 

Watch Online

Watch the High-Level Thematic Debate on Digital Cooperation and Connectivity online on UNWebTV: Part 1 & Part 2

Civil Society

Civil society representatives and individuals were invited to submit their questions for the three interactive panels at the Debate. Questions were collected via an online form, which has now closed. 

10:00-10:25 am
Opening Segment 

H.E. Mr. Volkan Bozkir, President of the General Assembly
H.E. Mr. Munir Akram, President of the Economic and Social Council.
Ms. Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations
H.M. Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, United Nations Secretary General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development.
Ms. Manjeet Kripalani, Executive Director of “Gateway House: Indian Council on Global Relations” 

10:25-10:30 am
Video Presentation

Global Assessment of Digital Cooperation and Connectivity by the United Nations Regional Commissions.    

10:30-10:40 am
Multi-Stakeholder Spotlight

Mr. Patrick Gelsinger, CEO, Intel
Mr. Hans Vestberg, CEO, Verizon Communications
H.E. Mrs. Louise Mushikiwabo, Secretary-General, the International Organization
of La Francophonie
H.E. Ms. Deema Alyahya, Secretary-General, Digital Cooperation Organisation
Dr. Ahmed Elmagarmid, Executive Director, Qatar Computing Research Institute,
and Ms. Jennifer Colville, UNDP
Ms. Mireia Villar Forner, UN Resident Coordinator in Uruguay  

10:40 -11:30 am
Panel 1: Ending the Digital Divide by 2030: COVID-19 Recoveries to Accelerate the Decade of Action 

Internet connectivity and digital skills are inextricably linked with more education and job opportunities, and more access to information and services. Adaptations to COVID-19’s impacts are accelerating digitalization, and societies need tools to adapt to these structural changes now to thrive in the emerging digital economy. Yet, these shifts risk entrenching the inequalities that disadvantage the digitally disconnected if substantial efforts are not geared to reduce multidimensional digital divides. The transformational potential of digital connectivity for the SDGs will be best achieved when governments, the private sector, civil society and other stakeholders work towards a common goal. 

Doreen Bogdan-Martin

Director of Telecommunication Development Bureau, ITU

Joshua Setipa

Managing Director, Technology Bank for the LDCs

John Frank

Vice President, UN Affairs, Microsoft

Eleanor Sarpong

Deputy Director & Policy Lead, Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI)

Rodney Taylor

Secretary-General, Caribbean Telecommunications Unions

Anriette Esterhuysen

Chair Multistakeholder Advisory Group, Internet Governance Forum (Moderator)

11:30 am-1:00 pm
High-Level Plenary

Member States are invited to focus their statements on contributions to the overall vision, goals and targets of ending the digital divide, enhancing global digital cooperation, and upscaling digital contributions to environmental action by 2030. In this regard, Member States are encouraged to describe national and regional challenges, policy responses and commitments, and announce partnerships, new multistakeholder initiatives and development cooperation.  

3:00-3:10 pm
Multi-Stakeholder Spotlight

Ms. Ghada Fathi Waly, Executive Director, UN Office on Drugs and Crime, and Director-General, UN Office, Vienna
ITU: Child Online Protection Guidelines
Mr. Bob Moritz, Chairman, PwC International
Ms. Stefania Giannini, Assistant Director-General for Education, UNESCO, &
H.E. Dr. Tariq Al Gurg, CEO, Dubai Cares
Ms. Alison Bryant, PhD Senior Vice-President, AARP Research and Digital Equity
ITU: AI for SDGs

3:10-4:00 pm
Panel 2: Equitable Access and Digital Empowerment: Securing a Safe, Inclusive, Free and Open Digital Future For All 

The digital divide reflects and amplifies existing inequalities. The poorest and the most vulnerable in developed and developing countries alike, who are the hardest hit by the COVID-19 crisis, are also the farthest behind in terms of digital access and opportunities. Without greater, more inclusive digital cooperation and coordination, expanding digital connectivity could risk expanding inequalities between and within countries and economic sectors; enabling technology-facilitated abuse and harassment, particularly targeting women and children; and aiding the spread of disinformation and misinformation that can cause harm and divide communities.  

Maria-Francesca Spatolisano

ASG for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, DESA, & OiC, Office of the SG’s Envoy on Technology

Javier Villamizar

Partner, SoftBank

Isabelle Durant

Acting Secretary-General, UNCTAD

Maria Grazia Panunzi

C20 Lead

Solinn Lim

Country Director, Oxfam Cambodia

 

José Ramón López-Portillo

10 Member Group, Technology Facilitation Mechanism (Moderator)

4:00-4:10 pm
Multi-Stakeholder Spotlight

H.E. Ms. Paula Ingabire, Minister of ICT and Innovation, the Republic of Rwanda
Mr. Mats Granryd, Director General, GSMA
Mr. Max Schulze, Executive Chairman of the Sustainable Digital Infrastructure Alliance
Ms. Katie Patrick, Environmental Engineer, Designer
Mr. Manav Subodh, Founder, 1 Million for 1 Billion

4:10-5:00 pm
Panel 3: Greening The Digital Future: Local, Regional and Multilateral Partnership  

Global digital connectivity can facilitate gathering and analyzing the global data needed to achieve the SDGs, and the Multilateral Environmental Agreements on Biodiversity, Land, Climate and Pollution. Global connectivity has the potential to greatly increase resource and technology efficiencies and reduce certain kinds of pollution, but it can also lead to entirely new services that require energy and increase pollution, sometimes with novel substances. Governments, the private sector, civil society and others play an important role in determining the balance between the two, including via market incentives. Whole-of-society approaches will be key to implementing the sustainable consumption and production patterns needed to realize benefits and avoid trade-offs. They will be especially important for managing rebound effects from the increased use of digital technologies. 

Damilola Ogunbiyi

CEO, Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL)

Luis Neves

Executive Director, Global Enabling Sustainability Initiative

Eliane Ubalijoro

Executive Director, Sustainability in the Digital Age

Maximo Torero

Chief Economist, FAO

Fred Onduri Machulu

Coordinator on technology transfer, LDC Group on Climate Change

Rose Mwebaza

Director, UN Climate Technology Center and Network (Moderator)

5:00-6:55 pm
High-Level Plenary (continued)  
6:55-7:00 pm
Closing Segment 

H.E. Mr. Volkan Bozkir, President of the General Assembly